SeaWorld has announced that one of their most well-known orca whales has died after battling an infection for about a year.
Tilikum died Friday morning “surrounded by the trainers, care staff and veterinarians that provided him around-the-clock world-class care,” says SeaWorld in a statement. He was in their possession for 25 years after coming from Sealand of the Pacific in British Columbia.
“SeaWorld veterinarians were treating a persistent and complicated bacterial lung infection” in Tilikum, the theme park says. “The suspected bacteria is part of a group of bacteria that is found in water and soil both in wild habitats and zoological settings.”
SeaWorld initially reported the whale was in poor health for the same infection last March. They’d been treating him with “various treatment regimens over the course of this illness, which consisted of, among other things, combinations of anti-inflammatories, anti-bacterials, anti-nausea medications, hydration therapy and aerosolized antimicrobial therapy.”
Tilikum was at the center of the documentary Blackfish, exposing the problems of keeping orca whales in captivity. The orca whale killed a SeaWorld trainer in 2010 and was involved in two other deaths prior. He was the largest orca whale in captivity.
“Tilikum had, and will continue to have, a special place in the hearts of the SeaWorld family, as well as the millions of people all over the world that he inspired,” said President & CEO of SeaWorld Joel Manby. “My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family.”
SeaWorld says the orca whale “was near the high end of the average life expectancy for male killer whales according to an independent scientific review.” In other words, don’t blame them for his death.
Last March SeaWorld announced they were ending their breeding program. They currently have 28 whales in captivity across their handful of theme parks.